WHO validates Gambia for having eliminated trachoma as a public health problem

The World Health Organization (WHO) has validated Gambia for having eliminated trachoma as a public health problem, making it the second country in WHO’s African Region to achieve this milestone.

“This is a great step towards the 2030 goals set by the recently launched 2021–2030 road map for neglected tropical diseases,” said Dr Ren Minghui, WHO Assistant Director-General for Universal Health Coverage/Communicable and Noncommunicable Diseases. “Gambia has become the second country this year, after Côte d’Ivoire1,to eliminate a neglected tropical disease.”

Gambia’s success in eliminating trachoma is largely attributed to strong collaboration with partner organizations to implement WHO’s SAFE strategy.2

“This is a remarkable achievement that has saved children, mothers and families from preventable visual impairment or blindness, and improved their quality of life and well-being,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “It is also a clear sign that we can achieve significant milestones through dedicated efforts in tackling health challenges in the region.”

At the heart of the efforts against trachoma are Gambian community volunteers, who have played a crucial role in mobilizing communities and promoting behaviour change.

A 2018–2019 survey on trachomatous trichiasis (the advanced, blinding stage of trachoma) in Gambia found that the prevalence of this condition among people aged 15 years and above ranged from 0% to 0.02% – well under the threshold required for elimination of trachoma as a public health problem3. This is a huge achievement compared to the mid-1980s, when a national survey estimated that trachoma was responsible for almost 1 out of 5 cases of blindness, countrywide.

Trachoma is a neglected tropical eye disease. Infection mainly affects children, becoming less common with increasing age. The long-term consequences of infection develop years or even decades later. In adults, women are up to 4 times more likely than men to be affected by the blinding complications of trachoma, mainly due to their close contact with infected children.

Gambia and WHO will continue to closely monitor previously endemic populations to ensure there is a rapid, proportionate response to any resurgence of the disease.

Disease prevalence

Despite Gambia’s success, trachoma remains endemic in 27 countries in WHO’s African Region, and 29 countries on the African continent overall. Progress against neglected tropical diseases has alleviated the human and economic burden they impose on the world’s most disadvantaged communities. The 2021–2030 road map for neglected tropical diseases seeks to prevent, control, eliminate or eradicate 20 diseases by 2030.

Globally, trachoma remains a public health problem in 45 countries, with an estimated 137 million people living in areas endemic for the disease. Significant progress has been made over the past few years – the number of people requiring antibiotic treatment for trachoma elimination in the African Region fell by 72 million from 189 million in 2014 to 117 million in 2020.

The disease

Trachoma is a devastating eye disease caused by infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis. The infection spreads from person to person through contaminated fingers, fomites and flies that have come into contact with discharge from the eyes or nose of an infected person.

Environmental risk factors for trachoma transmission include poor hygiene, overcrowded households, inadequate access to water, and inadequate access to, or use of, proper sanitation facilities.

Repeated infections in childhood lead to scarring of the inner side of the upper eyelids, resulting in inward turning of the eyelid margin, with the lashes touching the globe. This is a painful condition known as trachomatous trichiasis – if left untreated, this condition can result in visual impairment and blindness.


In 1996, WHO launched the WHO Alliance for the Global Elimination of Trachoma by 2020 (GET2020). With other partners in the Alliance, WHO supports country implementation of the SAFE strategy and the strengthening of national capacity through epidemiological assessment, monitoring, surveillance, project evaluation and resource mobilization.

Elimination of trachoma is inexpensive, simple and extremely cost-effective, yielding a high rate of net economic return.


1WHO validates Cote d’Ivoire for eliminating sleeping sickness as a public health problem

2The SAFE strategy consists of:
Surgery to treat the blinding stage (trachomatous trichiasis); Antibiotics to clear the infection, particularly mass drug administration of the antibiotic azithromycin, which is donated by the manufacturer, Pfizer, to elimination programmes, through the International Trachoma Initiative; Facial cleanliness; and Environmental improvement, particularly improving access to water and sanitation.


3Elimination of trachoma as a public health problem is defined as:

  • (i) a prevalence of trachomatous trichiasis “unknown to the health system” of <0.2% in adults aged ≥15 years (approximately 1 case per 1000 total population);
  • (ii) a prevalence of trachomatous inflammation—follicular in children aged 1–9 years of <5%, sustained for at least 2 years in the absence of ongoing antibiotic mass treatment, in each formerly endemic district; and
  • (iii) the existence of a system able to identify and manage incident trachomatous trichiasis cases, using defined strategies, with evidence of appropriate financial resources to implement those strategies.

Source: https://www.who.int/news/item/20-04-2021-who-validates-gambia-for-having-eliminated-trachoma-as-a-public-health-problem


Image credit:

Gambia Eye Health Programme
A Gambian mother getting checked for Trachoma. Trachoma is a neglected tropical eye disease. Infection mainly affects children, becoming less common with increasing age.

COVID-19: Young Nigerian Campaigner Urges World Leaders Not To Forget Neglected Tropical Diseases


Kikiope Oluwarore, from Abuja, Nigeria has been selected as one of just 13 young health advocates from across the globe forming the first-ever advisory board at a new youth-led organization to fight Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). Originally from Ibadan, the 33-year-old activist joins an impressive line-up of young talent which includes a scientist from the Gambia, an anthropologist from the Philippines and an entrepreneur from Tanzania on the board at Youth Combating NTDs. One of the first orders of business for Kikiope was to add her voice to that of the World Health Organization (WHO), government officials and a variety of NGOs as they call on world leaders not to forget the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) – which affect one in five people on the planet.


Kikiope joined a virtual global summit organised by Uniting to Combat NTDs which is aiming to keep NTDs on the health agenda as world leaders and policymakers tackle COVID. Kikiope is a public health professional, writer and founder of One Health and Development Initiative (OHDI). She has a DVM degree from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria; and as a Commonwealth Scholar, she completed her MSc degree in Global Health and Infectious Diseases from the University of Edinburgh.  She says: “Nigeria needs to step up its efforts against NTDs. I believe that young people could be a driving force to help escalate that.”


Youth Combating NTDs founder Gerald Chirinda is delighted Kikiope has been appointed to the board. He said, “As the largest demographic in the world, young people are also the largest at risk of being affected by NTDs. Young people represent a key constituent within the community, one that brings energy, innovative thinking and talent. Kikiope has demonstrated passion and focus in her social work to date. She brings determination, knowledge and a clear vision of what she would like to achieve.”


Nigeria is one of 32 countries that have successfully eliminated an NTD since the London Declaration on NTDs was signed in 2012. It was triumphant in eliminating guinea-worm which in 1988 affected more than 650,000 Nigerians. Now the disease has been stopped in its tracks. Kikiope hopes similar progress can be made in the fight against other diseases.


Gerald continued, “Our mission is to build an effective global community of youth like Kikiope in Nigeria who are fighting NTDs, by equipping and strengthening young advocates and leaders with the resources that amplify their voices and influence in innovating and shaping policies that will end NTDs in their communities.

“Millennials can help to end Neglected Tropical Diseases and Kikiope will help us to spread that message.

“We are asking people to join the global pledge at #EndTheNegect”

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of debilitating infectious diseases that affect over 1.7 billion people around the world. They disable, disfigure and sometimes kill.

Youth Combating NTDs is a global community made up of young people who are involved in the fight against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).


This youth-focused and led initiative is designed to mainstream the participation of young people within the NTD community across all its activities. Youth Combating NTDs is an initiative of Uniting to Combat NTDs and Future Africa Forum.

The full advisory board line-up

Source: http://newnigeriannewspaper.com/2020/07/10/covid-19-young-nigerian-campaigner-urges-world-leaders-not-to-forget-neglected-tropical-diseases/

Teardrops urges leaders not to neglect existing diseases

Mark Joshua Ouma, better known as Teardrops, joined speakers from the World Health Organization (WHO), government officials, NGOs and youth groups today calling on world leaders not to forget the fight against neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) – which affect one in five people on the planet.

The 29-year-old Kenyan poet based in Nairobi created a spoken word exclusive for the virtual event hosted by Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases in London.


“I refuse to just stand and watch diseases with complicated names trying to complicate lives,” muses Teardrops in his piece. “I refuse to live in a world where politicians can go to the driest part of the continent to look for votes but not to distribute medicine.”

His spoken words featured as part of a global event calling on country leaders and policymakers to remember over 1.7 billion people affected by NTDs, and continue the commitment set out in the London Declaration eight years ago. It featured a special session by Youth Combating NTDs, which is where the lyrical message was played.

Youth Combating NTDs founder Gerald Chirinda is delighted that Teardrops has added his voice to the call.

He says: “As the largest demographic in the world, young people are also the largest at risk of being affected by NTDs. Young people represent a key constituent within the community, one that brings energy, innovative thinking and talent.

Youth Combating NTDs is a global community of young people who are fighting to end NTDs. This youth-focused and led initiative is designed to mainstream the participation of young people within the NTD community across all its activities.

We empower young leaders that are passionate about learning, with a view of being actively involved in the work of the NTD community in various capacities that range from advocacy to policymaking.

“Millennials can help to end Neglected Tropical Diseases and Teardrops is helping us to spread that message.”


Source: https://nairobinews.nation.co.ke/editors-picks/teardrops-urges-leaders-not-to-neglect-existing-diseases


Call for Advisory Board Applications

About Neglected Tropical Diseases

Neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, are a group of debilitating infectious diseases that affect over 1.6 billion people worldwide. They disable, disfigure and sometimes kill – keeping children out of school, adults out of work and trapping communities in endless cycles of poverty.

About Youth Combating NTDs

Youth Combating NTDs is a global community of young people who are fighting against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). This youth-focused and led initiative, is designed to mainstream the participation of young people within the NTD community across all its activities. Youth Combating NTDs is an initiative of Uniting to Combat NTDs.

The Youth Advisory Board

Youth Combating Neglected Tropical Diseases, is currently looking for young exceptional people to join its Youth Advisory Board, to develop and drive a youth strategy as well as directly advise the Neglected Tropical Disease community on its policies and programmes relating to youth.

Roles & Responsibilities:

The Youth Advisory Board will help to improve the relevance, mobilization and outreach of different NTD initiatives among young people in endemic and donor countries.

The Board will help the community to improve its response to the needs of youth.

The Board will have a strategic advisory role, working closely with Uniting to Combat NTD’s and other stakeholders working in WASH, Diagnostics, Pharmaceuticals and Government.

The Board will contribute to increase the level and quality of youth participation in the planning, implementation and monitoring of NTD related programmes.

The Board members will represent the youth voice and serve as external faces of the community on various fora which include events, meetings, field visits and media

Board Composition

The Board will consist of 12 members aged 18 to 35 years, who are working or involved with local youth and/or professional organizations in various capacities, in countries were NTDs are prevalent and in donor countries.

Eligible candidates will be identified through an open call based on their work and background in one of the following areas (or any other relevant areas):

  • Academic
  • Advocacy
  • Business – Social/Impact/Other
  • Education & Youth Development
  • Health
  • Living with/survivor of one or more NTDs
  • Media
  • Philanthropy
  • Policy

Eligibility Criteria

Board members will be selected based on fulfilling the following criteria, with further information to be given to selected candidates:

  • Ages between 18-33 at the time of application.
  • Language capacity to understand development concepts and to articulate them clearly (in English).
  • Preference will be given to those with strong communication and/or advocacy skills in order to ensure strong youth voices and active participation in meetings.
  • Represent a diversity of age, racial and geographic characteristics and an overall gender balance.
  • Commitment to support follow up actions and recommendations as outcomes of the Board discussions.
  • Willingness to commit personally to the Board’s work and to have the flexibility and availability to participate in meetings and other activities pertinent to the work of the Board.
  • Willingness and ability to travel domestically and internationally and possess valid travel documents.

How to Apply

Interested candidates are invited to apply online via this link

Applications close on 30 April 2020.

A New Youth-Led Organization Just Launched to Fight Neglected Tropical Diseases

The End the Neglect campaign aims to raise awareness and call for action on the elimination of NTDs.

As global health efforts to tackle the current coronavirus outbreak intensify around the world, health advocates for a lesser-known — but just as important — group of diseases launched a new global campaign.

Health organization Uniting to Combat NTDs launched its year-long End the Neglect campaign at a meeting alongside the World Health Organization (WHO) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Thursday to raise awareness and call for action on the elimination of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).

NTDs is a term used to describe a group of parasitic and bacterial diseases that have serious side effects. They can blind, disfigure, and debilitate people, according to the WHO.

As their name — and the End the Neglect campaign — suggests, these diseases are neglected, in large part due to the fact that they are diseases that primarily affect those living in poverty.

The campaign kickoff coincides with the launch of a new organization — Youth Combating NTDs. It is a youth-led initiative, spearheaded by Uniting to Combat NTDs and Future Africa Forum, that seeks to empower, engage, and support young people in their efforts to tackle NTDs.

The youth participants convened in Dar es Salaam to participate in the launch of this global movement.

“I have been a youth advocate for NTDs since 2016, and in April 2017, while at a Gates Foundation event celebrating progress being made in NTDs, I made a commitment that I would engage more young people in the fight against NTDs,” Gerald Chirinda, founder of Future Africa Forum and co-founder of Youth Combating NTDs, told Global Citizen. “This is my way of fulfilling the commitment that I made then.”

Chirinda said that 75% of the attendees at Thursday’s event were young activists from more than 13 countries, specifically from Bangladesh, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe.

Earlier this year, the very first World NTD Day was held on Jan. 30 in an effort to spark international conversations, engage everyday people, and to call on world leaders to commit to working to eliminate NTDs.

Uniting to Combat NTDs and Youth Combating NTDs now aim to continue this work throughout the year.

Shomy Hasan Chowdhury, a 25-year-old activist from Bangladesh, is one of the youth activists who have joined Youth Combating NTDs.

Having worked as a health advocate for many years, Hasan Chowdhury believes this new initiative is especially powerful because it is being led by the youth.

“We can be a powerful driving force being a crucial stakeholder in this global movement against NTDs,” she told Global Citizen. “Young people have the energy, passion, and sense of responsibility to solve the pressing problems we are facing today.”

Hasan Chowdhury has worked extensively as a water and sanitation (WASH) activist and wants to integrate WASH into the fight to end NTDs, as she believes they are interconnected.

“I have seen firsthand how young people can trigger change and be empowered. We can win this fight against NTDs faster and with greater efficiency if we involve young people directly,” she said.

This year is an especially important one as it marks 10 years to the final deadline for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which collectively aim to end extreme poverty by 2030.

SDG 3 aims to ensure good health and well-being for all and therefore includes a significant call to action for the elimination of NTDs.

The 2012 London Declaration on NTDs brought pharmaceutical companies, donors, endemic countries, and other organizations together to commit to pushing for support and investment in tackling NTDs.

Since then, 31 countries have eliminated at least one NTD, according to Uniting to Combat NTDs.

This year, the Kigali Summit on Malaria and NTDs, created by RBM Partnership to End Malaria and Uniting to Combat NTDs, will take place on June 25, ahead of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). The event will provide a platform to call on world leaders to make commitments to these efforts.

There are already inexpensive treatments for many NTDs and some are close to being eliminated.

“With the launch of the new WHO NTD 2030 Roadmap during the Kigali Summit in June, this is a crucial time in the fight to beat NTDs,” Uniting to Combat NTDs said in a statement to partners about its campaign.

It added: “The Uniting to Combat NTDs partnership aims to raise awareness of NTDs in target countries, among a range of audience, to create an enabling environment for policymakers in endemic and donor countries to politically and financially commit to NTDs.”

This article was originally published by Global Citizen: https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/youth-combating-neglected-tropical-diseases/

Partners unite to spark global movements to end neglected tropical diseases

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania – Today, Uniting to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) launched End the Neglect, a year-long campaign set to ignite a global movement to raise awareness and inspire action to end neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). The announcement took place alongside the launch of the newly formed initiative Youth Combating NTDs, a youth-led initiative aimed at empowering, engaging and supporting young people to help tackle NTDs.

The global End the Neglect and Youth Combating NTDs announcements were featured during a high-level briefing on NTDs in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children and World Health Organization in Tanzania. Both the campaign and youth movement aim to end the neglect of these debilitating diseases, and to make the invisible, visible – from over 1.5 billion people affected by NTDs, to the youth voices all too often left without a seat at the decision-making table.

The global movements aim to galvanize support around several high-level opportunities for NTDs in 2020, particularly around the launch of the WHO 2021-2030 road map for NTDs at the world’s first Global Summit on Malaria and NTDs in Kigali, Rwanda, on 25 June 2020, alongside the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. To sustain gains and accelerate progress on NTDs in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, the road map will offer a fundamental shift to focus on countries, communities and people at the centre.

“Our new 2021-2030 roadmap calls for a multi-faceted approach that focuses on the engagement, involvement and contribution of everyone for better cross-sectoral action,” said Dr Mwelecele Ntuli Malecela, Director, WHO Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. “I welcome the ‘Youth Combatting NTDs’ initiative and look forward to working with the younger generation towards a world free of these diseases of poverty”
NTDs are a group of 20 debilitating infectious diseases that disable, disfigure and sometimes kill. Thriving in areas where access to healthcare, adequate sanitation and clean water is limited, NTDs keep already disadvantaged children out of school and adults out of work, subsequently trapping communities in endless cycles of poverty and costing countries billions of dollars every year in productivity gains.

“This is the decade to put an end to diseases of poverty and double down on the fight against NTDs,” said Mrs Thoko Elphick-Pooley, Director of Uniting to Combat NTDs. “With the launch of End the Neglect, we are starting a global movement to educate and inspire people to take action on these preventable and treatable diseases. We are also thrilled to announce our campaign alongside Youth Combating NTDs, a vital initiative putting young people at the front and center of the fight against these diseases.”

Through 2020, End the Neglect will call on global audiences to learn more about NTDs and the people they impact and to amplify voices on social media, in turn empowering others to take action. The campaign will also encourage participants to sign a petition urging world leaders to mobilise US$1.5 billion towards the total cost of delivering the WHO 2021-2030 road map for NTDs.

“We are excited that Future Africa Forum got the opportunity to partner with Uniting to Combat NTDs in launching this youth movement,” said Gerald Chirinda, Founder of the Future Africa Forum. “Given that NTDs affect over 1 billion young people globally, it is only right that as young people, we are actively involved in fighting NTDs, as we believe there is nothing for the youth without the youth. This movement gives us the opportunity to begin mainstreaming the participation of youth in the NTD community.”

Youth Combating NTDs is designed to encourage the participation of young people in the fight to beat NTDs. The initiative will equip and strengthen young advocates and leaders with the necessary resources to amplify their voices and effectively shape policies to end NTDs in their communities. As the digital space is key for mobilizing Millennials and Generation Z, the group plans to leverage social media to raise awareness of NTDs, and engage and activate the global youth community.

How millennials can help to end neglected tropical diseases

A few months ago I had no idea what neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) were, until I went into rural Zimbabwe with a team of people on a mission to combat the five most common of these diseases: intestinal wormsschistosomiasislymphatic filariasistrachoma and river blindness. I was amazed at the level of impact very little resources can make in a community and a nation.

NTDs are a group of infectious diseases that inflict suffering and chronic disability on over a billion of the world’s most impoverished people. They are causing worldwide economic losses due to their disabling impact on people’s lives.

In Zimbabwe, organizations like the END Fund and Higherlife Foundation are working together with the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) to find a way to combat them. Below are some of the key statistics of these neglected diseases:

  • People at risk globally: 3 billion.
  • People already suffering from at least one disease globally: 1.6 billion.
  • Annual deaths if not treated: 500,000 people

Think of what these statistics mean: billions of people are already suffering from these diseases. I can almost imagine the questions you are asking yourself now:

“How can this be?”

“How do we not know about this?”

“Is there a cure for these diseases?”

“What exactly are they?”

“Could I be suffering from them?”

“How can I help?”

These are the exact same questions I asked myself when I was introduced to NTDs. What really struck me was my own ignorance. I hadn’t heard much about these diseases before and when I asked a few of my friends, it didn’t surprise me that they were equally in the dark.

What I learned really saddened me, along with other members of the Global Shapers community, a network of “hubs” developed and led by young people. After a presentation on NTDs, We decided to get involved in the fight. Just 72 hours later, I was on the road, heading to witness a mass drug administration (MDA) taking place in rural Zimbabwe.

We traveled to a rural primary school, where we were excited to find all 500 students at the school undergoing treatment. I watched in amazement as this quick and simple, yet effective way of treatment was immediately impacting hundreds of children while using very little resources.

Once back in Harare, members of the Shapers hub decided to work towards launching #EndNTDsZW, a millennial-led awareness campaign launched to educate Zimbabwean citizens through social media.

So why should millennials care, let alone get involved in the fight against NTDs? Because in today’s world, they can make a huge impact.

  • We are the biggest group since the baby boomers, making us an influential part of any population.
  • We are the ones taking over the workforce now.
  • Investing in a future generation that is productive is in our best interest and will help shape the overall economy.
  • Being the largest and most influential part of any population means we are also likely to be the most affected by the diseases.
  • We are responsible for the success and wellbeing of the future generations, and it’s up to us to pass onto them an NTD free inheritance.
  • Not only would we change millions of lives suffering from death, stigma, depression and disability, which can be caused by NTDs, we could save $52 Billion by 2030 in Africa alone by ending these diseases.

And now here are four reasons how millennials can help us put an end to NTDs:

1. Knowledge and use of social media

Nobody knows how to use social media like a millennial. The number of connections they have and the amount of time they spend on social media is an invaluable contribution to any cause. Because of us, information travels faster and farther.

2. Creativity

We are creative individuals and that stems from a place of passion, where we want to see the causes we are involved in become a success. Our creative minds will paint a picture of hope in any situation.

3. Energy

We are highly energetic individuals and we are able to use some of our energy to fuel a fire in the lives of people, and in this case, fight these diseases.

4. Big givers

According to the 2015 Millennial Impact Report, 84% of millennials in the US made a charitable donation in 2014. This shows that we millennials are big givers and also big influencers, with 67% of millennial employees saying that they would be likely to donate if their peer co-workers also participated. Apart from financial resources, we are big givers of our time and skills.

I strongly believe that the future belongs to our generation. It is important for us to take action and begin to directly confront issues like NTDs, which will affect our future productivity and the generation after us.

Due to the global impact of NTDs and the number of people who suffer from them, it is not enough for the Global Shapers Harare Hub to embark on this campaign alone. This challenge requires a global approach with a generation that is active on social media playing their part in creating awareness for and of these diseases.

My call to young people is this: let’s begin to shape the future we want to live in now. After all, it is our inheritance. Let the movement begin to #EndNTDs!